DINZ Interview - Meet your insurance guru: David Burroughs

As a DINZ Member you have access to limited free insurance advice, and contracts that can prove invaluable in safeguarding you and your wallet should things go pear-shaped (firmly knocks on wood). Insurance guru David Burroughs, Partner at Auckland Insurance - an independent risk advisory and insurance broking firm - is in charge of all things DINZ.

Here, David gives us a glimpse at what he does and some of the war stories from the design front.

My Mantra

“Whether you’re a high-end corporate business, an SME or an individual, you deserve the same respect and service standards.”.

Common mistakes designers make

Trying to be too kind to their clients
Designers are always trying to appease or to do the right thing by their clients - which is a wonderful way to look at things - but it ends up creating more risk exposure. 

Some people sign contracts that extend their liability beyond what is reasonable, but they want the contract so they sign it.

Admitting liability too quickly
When something goes wrong, it is human nature to say: ‘sorry, we'll fix this’ but a key condition of a policy is not to admit liability until the insurer has determined whether or not liability exists. So we often get into sticky situations where people want to maintain a relationship with their client, want to own up to a mistake and overstep the mark

How can they be solved?

It is all about early prevention
Reviewing things upfront and making sure that we can negotiate the best terms for you. We don’t give legal advice per say, but we certainly know how to potentially reword a clause to wind back exposure.

Also, as soon as you have any inkling or a sniff of a problem, talk to us. We can determine whether we need to get the insurer involved early or what to do. 

 Our client is the designer and our duty is that they are aware of all the risk exposures and they have all the protection that they need… whenever you are in doubt when signing contracts, get them to us to review.

Sometimes contractual obligations don’t align to the insurance policy so they don’t dovetail… so if that ends up being a claim, that might end up being only a 50% or partial insurance response. So making sure that contracts match the policy.

The good news is that the DINZ standard contract (Services Agreement) is well respected and well worded so that it doesn’t cause the frustrations that we are seeing in other contracts. 

War stories?

Spatial Design
By far the most exposed industry in the design sector is spatial design or architecture. 

The really big issues tend to be around the envelope and exterior cladding, water ingress and tightness.  We’ve only just recently been able to secure weather tightness cover. Prior to that there was a full exclusion where, if you designed something, then it leaked, then the designers were not covered. 

Height to boundary has always been a common one, where driveways have been built too high so they have to be redeveloped. High density designs are starting to come through and insurers are starting to look at those with reduced capacity appetite. With the idea that if you make one design error, the multiplicity of that error can come across a hundred buildings. Insurers are starting to look quite closely at that. 

Product design
There is a sharp increase in people selling products they don’t manufacture themselves. People are mixing ingredients to create products and that creates new risk processes because effectively, we are asking for product guarantees.

Graphic design 
We have potential copyright and intellectual property issues and also errors of omission. A graphic designer once managed to misspell a very key word on the front cover of a report for a council and they had to get everything reprinted. That cost tens of thousands of dollars. Sounds simple and stupid… but essentially that is what insurance is for. It is about picking up those errors before they happen. They were covered in the end because it was an error in their professional capacity as a designer and copywriter.

Sizes of organisations we work with?

We vary in the size but we find that for the really small ones, it is a catch 22. Some of them may not have the experience of others. They don’t necessarily have the checks and balances or the processes in place that will give them some fall back whereas the larger businesses have more policies and programmes in place to mitigate some of those human errors.

The most complex project we have worked on recently?

We had to insure the latest America’s cup. We did all the event insurance for the racing and the village. The irony for us was contingency insurance, where you get money back should something wrong happen.

With racing, you had redundancy of race dates and all the rest of it. We were securing insurance out of London and they did not want to provide us with natural disaster cover but when you are sailing around a volcano around the harbour… it was something we had to make sure that we got - even though the likelihood of Rangitoto exploding was non-existent.

My background

I specialise in advising on all aspects of liability risk and provide detailed contractual risk mitigation advice and specialised insurance solutions. My expertise in these areas are enhanced and complemented by a law degree.

What I do in my time off?  

I enjoy fishing and boating, playing golf and have two young kids which keep me busy. 

 Do I have a design connection?

No, I have no design flair myself! I like black and white and I like contracts… hence why I am in this industry.

What I enjoy about the design space is that you create something, and what we are trying to do is protect something.

I enjoy being part of other people’s business to help them succeed. We are not agents, we are partners effectively. 

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.